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NASCAR Cup vs ARCA Menards: The Series Compared

NASCAR and ARCA Menards have enjoyed a long-term relationship since 1964, and when you watch an ARCA Menards race in action, you may see various similarities to their Cup Series counterparts. So, you may therefore wonder about the differences between the NASCAR Cup Series and ARCA Menards. 

The ARCA Menards is part of NASCAR’s Roots Series, while the Cup Series is the top racing tier. ARCA is a minor league to the Cup and has been part of NASCAR since 2018. Therefore, it has cars that at times compete at similar tracks and, during qualifying, they even drive at similar speeds. 

Below, we will talk more about why ARCA Menards is part of NASCAR. We will also compare the speeds of the two divisions, plus the types of tracks they run on. Finally, we will discuss the similarities and differences between NASCAR Cup Cars and ARCA Menards cars.  

Is ARCA Menards Part Of NASCAR?

ARCA Menards is part of NASCAR and has been officially since 2018. However, the two series have long had a strong link, with ARCA being around in some form since 1953. There are many similarities between the NASCAR Cup Series and the ARCA Menards series.

ARCA Menards has always had an interesting relationship with NASCAR because the series was never officially part of NASCAR for decades, yet they were almost always linked to the sanctioning body. ARCA, an acronym for the Auto Racing Club of America, ran races during Speedweeks as one of many support races for the Daytona 500. 

The series traces its roots back to 1953, where John Marcum founded the series under the name Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC) in Toledo, Ohio. This gave stock car racing fans a Midwestern alternative to the Southeastern-dominated NASCAR, and in 1964, ARCA and NASCAR’s long standing relationship began, and it never cooled off. 

A Feeder Series

However, ARCA Menards was never officially part of NASCAR until April 27th, 2018, when NASCAR acquired the series. Like the Xfinity and, later, the Truck Series, ARCA also long served as a feeder system to NASCAR, with popular names like Kyle Petty, Adam Petty, Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, and Joey Logano, among others, having competed in the series. 

ARCA is often considered the unofficial fourth level of NASCAR, following the Cup, Xfinity, and Truck Series. One reason is that ARCA cars resemble Xfinity Series cars, and the fact that they race at many tracks NASCAR itself races on. 

Despite its status as being part of NASCAR, you won’t easily find the ARCA Menards Series mentioned on its official site unless you know where to look. However, there is a tab in the menu called NASCAR Roots, and it is under there that you will find news for ARCA Menards, the Whelen Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Weekly Series. 

Are ARCA Menards Cars As Fast As Cup Cars?

ARCA Menards cars are about as fast as Cup cars during qualifying at certain tracks, but often not in the race. Qualifying speeds at Daytona peaked at 183 mph (295 kph) for ARCA and 181 mph (291 kph) for Cup cars at the 2022 event, the first season that the Cup Series used the Next Gen car. 

However, the Cup cars outpaced the ARCA cars during the race at 142 mph (229 kph) for Cup and 126 mph (203 kph) for ARCA. At Phoenix, ARCA’s pole speed edged out NASCAR’s, with ARCA scoring 133 mph (214 kph) while the Cup cars logged 132 mph (212 kph). For the race itself, NASCAR again beat ARCA with an average speed of 100 mph (161 kph) versus 86 mph (138 kph) for ARCA. 

In April’s Talladega race, rain washed out qualifying for the ARCA cars, but their average race speed of 118 mph (190 kph) paled to the Cup’s average speed of 149 mph (240kph). Clearly this is a small sample size, but it illustrates that the ARCA cars aren’t too far behind the Cup cars during qualifying. 

KEY POINTS

• The ARCA Menards series has been around in some form almost as long as NASCAR itself

• The two series have been officially linked since 2018

• ARCA cars are about as fast as NASCAR Cup cars in qualifying, but usually have lower race speeds

NASCAR Cup Series Cars vs ARCA Menards

ARCA Menards cars resemble Xfinity cars from the outside to an extent, but they are actually older versions of Xfinity and Cup cars. While no form of stock car racing is cheap, ARCA teams spend money in the lower six-figures per season to remain afloat (versus the millions in the Cup Series), which explains the older technologies you will see at ARCA races compared to the Next Gen car in NASCAR. 

Some call ARCA a trickle-down or hand-me-down series, as older Next Gen equipment will work its way into ARCA in time. If the division upgrades its specifications when that time comes to approve such parts, you will start to see ARCA cars resemble that of the Next Gen car, even if that day is a long way off. 

One way to tell just how old these cars are is that they do not use Mustangs and Camaros in ARCA. Instead, you will see old Ford Fusions, the older version of the Toyota Camry, and the Chevy SS. 

NASCAR And ARCA Cars Differ Dramatically

With the Next Gen car in the Cup Series, it is a completely different ride than what we see in ARCA. NASCAR Next Gen cars feature single lug nut, 18 inch (46 cm) wheels, an independent rear suspension, and exhaust pipes that rest near the doors. 

The Next Gen car also strongly resembles its Camaro, Mustang, and Camry counterparts that you see on the road and in showrooms. Its five-speed sequential transmission with a reverse gear is another innovation. They take Sunoco Green E15 Racing Fuel, feature 670 horsepower, 358 cubic inch (5.1 liter) pushrod V8 naturally aspirated engines, and four-inch rear spoilers. 

ARCA Menards Specifications

With older, cheaper technologies, ARCA’s specifications better resemble those seen in the Xfinity Series than in the Cup Series. While ARCA cars contain V8 pushrod engines that are naturally aspirated, their power output stands at 700 horsepower. 

You still see 15 inch (38 cm) wheels that incorporate five lug nuts too. While Cup Series wheels are aluminum, steel wheels still exist on ARCA cars. They also use truck arms at the bottom, something the Cup Series did away with on the Next Gen car. The transmission remains a four-speed H-pattern model from the older Cup cars. 

Another notable feature on the ARCA Menards car is that they still use carburetors for fuel delivery, much like Xfinity and Truck. The Cup Series, meanwhile, has used fuel injection since 2012. 

Do The Cup Series & ARCA Menards Race On The Same Tracks?

The Cup Series and ARCA Menards Series sometimes race on the same tracks, with ARCA Menards serving as one of the support races for the Cup Series events. ARCA Menards runs just 20 races on its schedule versus the 36 Cup points-paying events, but you will see several familiar tracks listed.

These tracks include Daytona, Talladega, Kansas, Charlotte, Michigan, Pocono, Bristol, Watkins Glen, and Phoenix. The aforementioned tracks further provide evidence that ARCA is a true feeder system for the higher series in NASCAR. We see two superspeedways, three speedways, the tricky triangle of Pocono, one short track, a road course, and a dogleg track. 

This gives ARCA Menards drivers experience racing on NASCAR Cup Series tracks, but it doesn’t overwhelm their often inexperienced drivers who lack the skill set to compete full-time on Cup Series tracks. This also explains why ARCA Menards, like the Truck Series, races on tracks that Cup Series cars do not travel to. 

Non-Cup Series Tracks ARCA Menards Races On

Many tracks that the ARCA Menards series races on are short tracks like Iowa Speedway. This track measures at just under 1 mile (1.6 km), but it is actually one of the larger non-Cup Series tracks on the ARCA Menards schedule. The Berlin Raceway, located in Marne, Michigan, measures at just 0.44 miles (0.710 km) in circumference. 

The Elko Speedway is even smaller, measuring at just 0.375 miles (0.6 km). ARCA Menards does race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which both NASCAR Truck and Xfinity have visited in the past, though Cup cars do not race at the popular road course. Lucas Oil Raceway is another track ARCA Menards races at that the Cup Series does not

There are, however, a few mile-long tracks that ARCA will race on that the Cup Series does not, one of which is the Illinois State Fairgrounds Racetrack, also known as The Springfield Mile. This clay track traces its roots to 1853, making it one of the oldest to host stock car racing. ARCA Menards also holds events at the Milwaukee Mile. 

Another one-mile clay track the series races on is the Duquoin State Fairgrounds Racetrack. And finally, they wrap up their series at the 0.5 mile (0.8 km) Salem Speedway and the similarly sized Toyota Speedway

ARCA Menards Resides In The Midwest

Of the 20 races ARCA ran in 2022, 12 of those events took place in the Midwest. This mainly pertains to the fact the ARCA Menards Series is based in the Midwest, being headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. Even with NASCAR purchasing the series, whose roots lay in the Southeastern United States, ARCA Menards appears to be set to remain in the Midwest for the foreseeable future.

KEY POINTS

• The ARCA Menards series is often called a hand-me-down series

• This is because they utilize equipment no longer seen in the Cup Series

• The cars differ greatly between the two series, from the car models to the engines under the hoods

• However, the two series do race on some of the same tracks

Final Thoughts

When pitted against one another, the NASCAR Cup vs ARCA Menards comparison gives us many similarities, but also plenty of differences. ARCA cars are mainly hand-me-down cars from the NASCAR Cup or Xfinity Series. Their drivers are nowhere near as experienced, which explains the slower race speeds.